Oxbow Park: awesome camping near Portland

When I’m not working at the Community Cycling Center, I’m teaching teens and kids about nature with the Oregon Zoo. In a super-simplified nutshell, that means I take kids camping. Last weekend, it meant that I was at Oxbow Regional Park with a bunch of teenagers, hiking, wading in the Sandy River (brr!), and sleeping under the amazing stars.

It reminded me that Oxbow is one of my favorite nearby places to bike camp. Depending on where you leave from Portland, it’s only about 30 miles if you take the longer and nearly car-free way along the Springwater Corridor. If you just take Division Street out there, it’s even faster, though not as pleasant.


(My super roundabout route designed to include the whole paved Springwater:)
View Bicycling directions to SE Oxbow Pkwy in a larger map


Eventually, the Springwater will be paved all the way to Boring. Right now, the last two miles are still gravel. Luckily, where it turns into gravel is where you want to get off anyway to get to Oxbow. There’s even a conveniently-provided sign to remind you.

Even though that sign is super helpful, it’s the last one you’ll see. At least, I didn’t see any more bike signs directing me for the next 7.2 miles to Oxbow, though it’s possible I just took a different way than the sign people expected me to. It’s not complicated though, as long as you’ve looked at a map.

The sketchiest part of the whole ride is a multi-lane cross of Highway 26 shortly after you turn off the Springwater. Depending on the time of day, crossing 26 can be totally chill or heinously awful. Generally it takes a while for it to clear but there will be a window eventually. I promise:)

After that, though, it’s lovely country roads all the way out to the ridiculously awesome descent into the park. Despite some flooding earlier in the season, the campground is open for camping, and it’s plush in the way that Pacific Northwest forests are–verdant, ferny, cedar-y, lovely. Plus, there are miles of amazing hiking, running, fishing, birdwatching, naturing… even though you’re really only a few miles out of Portland (and even fewer out of Gresham), it feels like you’ve taken a grand adventure.

Like Stub Stewart on the Banks-Vernonia trail, this is a great overnight camping trip. You know, the kind of thing to do when you need to get the heck out of the city but don’t have that much time.

(On the way there, you can even marvel at the super tall equestrian-friendly crossing buttons:)

(Or wonder why a sign like this is necessary on a multi-use path closed to motor vehicles)

Oxbow would be a great spot to hang out for a few days, too, but since there’s no hiker-biker site and the camping is $20 per site, it gets pricey quickly. Unless you split it with a whole bike posse:) Which would be awesome. If you do, tell me about it so I can enjoy it vicariously:)

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